Acquiring prospects at the trade deadline presents unique challenges. For a team as busy as the Hurricanes were in 2010, any number of teams and any number of players could be in the discussion, with things changing at a hectic pace.
However, that’s not to say that there’s a scramble when it comes to quickly identifying trade targets on other teams as they enter the picture. A team like Carolina, which was clearly in a position to add young talent to the organization, had a good idea of which teams were sniffing around and which players they would require in order to part with their veterans.
For example, take Oskar Osala, whom the Hurricanes acquired from Washington along with experienced defenseman Brian Pothier and a second-round pick in exchange for Joe Corvo this past Wednesday.
”I would say the first time I came across his name was at last year’s scouting meetings when he was a first-year pro,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “He really came out of the gate strong last year, so that gets identified in our scouting reports and gets talked about in our scouting meetings. From there, you begin to try to track them a little bit more and pay attention when Albany is playing Hershey and whatnot.”
Thus, when the Hurricanes and Capitals began to talk in the days leading up to the deadline – and such conversations were surely plentiful with the teams making two separate deals on deadline day, the other involving Scott Walker – Carolina knew who they wanted.
In an effort to share some of that insight and shed some light on the names that came the other way on March 3, here’s a breakdown of Carolina’s three new prospects as well as a sneak peek of the 2010 draft, which the Canes are now stocked for.
At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, Osala, a fourth-round draft pick by Washington in 2006, brings a nice blend of size and skill. The second-year pro out of Finland, now 22, has already made his NHL debut, appearing in two games for the Capitals in 2008-09.
”We think he’s a good prospect,” said Karmanos. “I wouldn’t want to label his game as more physical or more skilled, because he brings both aspects to his game. He’s got the size and scoring ability, and if he can just continue to get stronger and quicker we think he can be a good player at this level.”
A quick glance at Osala’s AHL numbers over the last two seasons don’t show a significant amount of improvement – he scored 23 goals in his rookie year and is on roughly the same pace this year – but the Hurricanes believe a very deep Hershey team is mostly responsible for that.
The Bears, the minor-league affiliate of the Washington Capitals, have dominated the American League in a similar fashion to their parent club, as former Hurricane Keith Aucoin and company currently enjoy a 17-point lead in their conference. That led to reduced ice time for a young player like Osala, who scored all but one of his 15 goals at even strength.
”Albany is also a good team, but Hershey has had a pretty good season and Osala probably hasn’t played as much on that team as he will in our system,” said Karmanos. “We think he’s got a better chance to continue to develop with our team, and we’re excited about that. He’ll play more and play more situations with us, and he’s certainly excited to be here.”
The fact that he joins compatriots Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen and Tuomo Ruutu in the Hurricanes’ system is not completely coincidental.
“It doesn’t hurt that he’s Finnish,” said Karmanos. “When he eventually makes it up to the Hurricanes, that can only help him feel more comfortable.”
Although the Hurricanes’ acquisition of a goaltending prospect was partially motivated by injuries to Cam Ward in Carolina and Mike Murphy in Albany, Carolina feels good about Pogge, who they believe can eventually reach the expectations placed on him following a stellar junior career.
Pogge was named the top player in the Western Hockey League and the best goaltender in all of the Canadian major junior leagues in 2006, both awards that were taken home by Ward two years prior. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who selected him in the third round of the 2004 draft, were unhappy with his progress, offloading him to Anaheim in August of 2009 for a conditional draft pick
With Pogge still young and the example of a rapidly-developing Justin Peters still fresh, the Hurricanes believe their new acquisition can excel under Assistant Coach Tom Barrasso.
”This kid came out and had a tremendous junior career and played in a large market and did fine, but the fact that he’s not a number one goaltender in the NHL at 23 years of age does not mean that he has failed,” said Karmanos. “He’s right on track, in our opinion, and we’re happy to add him.”
Barrasso has been widely recognized for his work on the mental aspects of Ward’s and Peters’s games. The Hurricanes hope that can again be the case with Pogge, who deals with the typical lapses in focus that young goaltenders experience as well as the stigma of having been cast aside twice in his career.
“There’s a lot of pressure on goaltenders especially,” said Karmanos. “If you let in a bad one, you’ve got to move on, and if things are going well you’ve got to stay even-keel as well.
“There’s the physical aspect and there’s a work ethic factor that Pogge has – he’s a hard-working, character kid – but he’s like a lot of young goaltenders where his game is still not totally there, but it’s not like we’re starting from scratch. He’s got a lot of good tools.”
LaLonde-McNicoll, 21, does not have quite the same pedigree as the other two prospects acquired at this year’s deadline, having taken the less-traveled route of an undrafted free agent signing.
However, a strong 104-point overage year at Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior league drew the attention of Colorado, who saw playmaking potential in the 5-foot-10, 176 pound center, signing him to a three-year contract.
The Hurricanes also noticed the player from the Quebec league and continued to monitor his progress in Lake Erie of the AHL. They then acquired him from the Avalanche along with a sixth-round pick in exchange for Stephane Yelle and Harrison Reed.
“We have reports from the early part of this season, his first as a pro, where he showed some skill and some speed,” said Karmanos. “We saw this as a situation where Harrison Reed was probably best served by a change of scenery, so we picked up a younger guy to kind of fill a need in Albany for a playmaking-type center.”
In terms of the Hurricanes' NHL prospects that have played the bulk of this season in the minors, center is easily the weakest forward position, as more high-profile skaters like Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson and Jiri Tlusty all play on the wing. Lalonde-McNicoll bolsters that position moving forward.
”That’s what he’s been playing, and it’s his history in junior,” said Karmanos. “That’s what we’d like him to play.”
The 2010 Draft
There are no names associated with the six draft choices acquired by Carolina on deadline day, at least not yet. Combined with trades made earlier in the year, the Hurricanes now own 11 picks in the seven rounds of the 2010 draft as well as an extra second-rounder in 2011, according to General Manager Jim Rutherford.
How many of those picks will be used to select players remains to be seen, but all of them could prove valuable assets in one way or another. The three second-rounders in 2010 could prove particularly valuable, whether the team decides to select young players, move up in the draft or acquire players via trade.
“Going in, the consensus viewpoint is that this is a strong draft,” said Karmanos. “Sometimes that means the top five is elite and sometimes it means that the scouting staff believes that the overall talent base of players extends late. This year it’s kind of both.”
In fact, the crop of talent in this year’s draft class reminds Karmanos of a star-studded 2003 group that reads like a who’s who of today’s top young talent, including several All-Stars and Olympians.
“Going through the first- and second-round names on our list, I can tell you that it does remind me of 2003 in terms of the depth of talent throughout this draft in the first couple of rounds.”